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September 3, 2003
Feminist activists and their friends in the media keep insisting that military women strongly desire the “opportunity” to serve in land combat units.  But is that true?  Opinion surveys done by the Army indicate that the majority of military women are strongly opposedto combat assignments—especially if it means being forced into combat on an “equal” basis with men.

According to the General Accounting Office (GAO), quoting a study done by the Rand Corporation in 1998, only 10% of female privates and corporals agreed that “women should be treated exactly like men and serve in the combat arms just like men.”  [1]

The Army Research Institute (ARI), in a series of surveys since 1993, also found that most military women want nothing to do with combat assignments.  In 2001, for example, Question #60 in the ARI “Sample Survey of Military Personnel” asked military people whether women should be assigned to direct ground combat (DGC), which was defined as” engaging an enemy on the ground with individual or crew-served weapons, while being exposed to hostile fire and to a high probability of direct physical contact with the hostile force’s personnel.”  [2]

ARI asked whether current policy “should be changed so that females can also be ‘involuntarily assigned’ [to combat units]”  [3]   The results, which should have given the Army pause, indicated that only one-tenth of enlisted women (10%) wanted the Army to force female soldiers into combat units on an involuntary basis.  The figure for enlisted men—many of whom were found in a more detailed independent survey to be in favor of women in combat for vindictive reasons—was 23%. [4]  (The ARI bar graph is published on p. 1 of CMR Notes, July 2003, which can be accessed by use of passwords issued to CMR members, media, and researchers on request.)

A bar graph slide prepared by ARI further indicated that among enlisted personnel, low percentages in favor of women in combat on the same basis as men “had remained stable since the fall of 1993.”  Among female and male officers, levels of support—19% and 20%, respectively—were higher but far less than a majority. [5] 

Even when ARI’s questionnaire inquired about combat assignments on a voluntary basis—a hypothetical idea that is not a workable option—responses in favor were not much higher. [6]  Only 26% of enlisted women were in favor of voluntary combat for women, as opposed to 16% of the men.  Only 29% and 12% of female and male officers, respectively, were in favor of voluntary combat assignments for women.

When the question was asked in terms of “voluntary [combat] assignments for both males and females,” percentages in favor ranged from a high of 31% (enlisted women) to a low of 7% (male officers). [7]

None of these figures reflected a groundswell of support for the feminist agenda being advocated by the former Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services.  Until the DACOWITS Charter was allowed to expire in 2001, the committee operated as a tax-funded feminist lobby primarily composed of civilian women and a few ambitious female officers.  Most of the women officers assigned to advise the DACOWITS seemed primarily motivated by careerism and the potential opportunity for a future woman to become Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. [8]

What Do Women Want ?

Clearly, dismal survey results on the women in combat issue presented a problem for Pentagon feminists.  The answer to the problem was simple.  If you don’t want to hear the answer, stop asking the question. 

In the year 2002, the ARI survey dropped the question about women in combat, and substituted less consequential queries, such as the opinions of military personnel regarding personal computers.  The omission sends the clear message that Army officials simply do not care what men and women think about new combat rules under which they must live—and possibly die.

Is there any other major defense issue that is handled by Pentagon officials with politically correct blinders firmly in place? 

“After action” reports about every aspect of the Battle of Iraq are being examined and discussed publicly.  By contrast, data on certain “sensitive” matters, such as the number of personnel losses and evacuations that occurred during the war due to pregnancy or inadequate dependent care plans—has not been “captured” yet. 

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is trying to transform the military into a stronger, more cohesive and flexible force that can be deployed anywhere faster.  All the more reason to insist that the right questions be asked about the extent and length of predictable personnel losses in all of the services.

America is defended not by ships, planes, and high-tech weapons on land, but by young men and women who volunteer to serve their country.  Their views should be respected and not ignored.  Even if polls and surveys among military personnel showed overwhelming majorities in support of women in combat, President George W. Bush must direct the Pentagon to implement sound priorities that put the interests of national security first. 



[1]  Rand, “Recent Gender-Integration in the Military: Effects Upon Readiness, Cohesion, and Morale,” 1997, Table 6.5.

[2]  Army Personnel Survey Office, U.S. Army Research Institute, “Direct Combat Assignment Policy: Findings from the Fall 2001 Sample Survey of Military Personnel,” p. 1.


[3] Under current policy, male soldiers can be involuntarily assigned to direct ground combat units, but female soldiers cannot. 

[4]  Testimony of Prof. Charles Moskos and Laura Miller before the Presidential Commission on the Assignment of Women in the Armed Forces, Sept. 10, 1992.  In a survey regarding Army women, Moskos and Miller identified a significant group of hostile male solders who said they favored women in combat so that “Then they’ll get killed and we won’t have to hear from them anymore.”  “Egalitarian sexists,” as Moskos and Miller described them, wanted to “Let them in so they’ll fall flat on their face.”  Moskos estimated the percentage of male “hostile proponents” to be about a third to a half.  The element of resentment seems to be less of a factor when survey questions propose the (still impractical) option of “voluntary” combat for women.


[5]  ARI Survey, Fall 2001, pp. 1-2, Slides #6 and #2.

[6] The Presidential Commission determined that there is no practical way that women could be assigned to combat units only on a voluntary basis.  (Commission Report, CF 4.13, p. C-127)


[7]  ARI Survey, 2001, Slides #3, #4, #7, and #8.

[8] The Charter of the old DACOWITS, which had its 50th Anniversary (and last) meeting in the spring of 2001, was allowed to expire in February 2002.  A few months later, however, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz announced a new Charter for an advisory committee of the same name, which is supposed to take an objective look at family readiness and related issues.

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